An eight-kilometer wall of prehistoric rock art featuring animals and humans was discovered in the Amazon rainforest after its creation up to 12,500 years ago.
The historic work of art, now called the ‘Sistine Chapel of the Elders’, was discovered on cliff faces last year in Chiribiquete National Park, Colombia, by a team of archaeologists from British Columbia funded by the European Research Council.
The date of the paintings is based on the depiction of extinct animals from the Ice Age, such as the mastodon – a prehistoric relative of the elephant that has not been seen in South America for at least 12,000 years.
There are also representations of paleolama – an extinct member of the camel family, as well as giant sloths and Ice Age horses.
Human handprints can also be seen. In the Amazon, most of the indigenous tribes are said to be the descendants of the first wave of Siberian migrants who crossed the Bering Land Bridge 17,000 years ago.
The eight-kilometer wall of prehistoric rock art featuring animals and humans and created up to 12,500 years ago has been discovered by a team of archaeologists.
During the Ice Age, this land bridge remained relatively intact because the snowfall was very light. It stretched for hundreds of kilometers across continents on either side, allowing people to cross different regions.
While it is not known exactly which tribe created the paintings, there are two main indigenous tribes in the Amazon that have existed for thousands of years – the Yanomami and the Kayapo.
The first report of the Yanomami, who live between the borders of Brazil and Venezuela, dates back to 1759 when a Spanish explorer found a chief from another tribe who mentioned them.
The team discovered the historic artwork, now called the ‘Sistine Chapel of the Ancients’, on the cliff walls last year in Chiribiquete National Park, Colombia.
Among the paintings, Discovery Hats were created as much as 12,500 years ago, are those that depict the now extinct juggernaut that once inhabited North and Central America, and the Paleolama – an extinct camelid.
Much less is known about the origin of the Kayapo tribe, whose population is estimated at around 8,600.
The natives of the Amazon have only kept written records relatively recently, and the humid climate and acidic soil have destroyed almost all traces of their material culture, including bones.
Until the discovery of these paintings, all that was known about the history of the region before 1500 was deduced from rare archaeological evidence such as ceramics and arrowheads.
These ancient images, which provide a glimpse of a now lost civilization, are believed to have been created by some of the first humans to reach the Amazon.
The fascinating discovery, which took place last year but has been kept a secret, will now feature in a Channel 4 series Jungle Mystery: Lost Kingdoms of the Amazon, in December.
The site is in the heart of Colombia in the Serrania de la Lindosa region. It’s so far away that after the Anglo-Colombian search team drove for two hours, they were forced to walk for another four hours.
The site is in the heart of Colombia in the Serrania de la Lindosa region. It is so far away that after the Anglo-Colombian search team drove for two hours, they were forced to walk for four more.
Led by a professor of archeology at the University of Exeter, Jose Iriarte, the research team was funded by the European Research Council.
Mr. Iriarte told The Observer: “When you are there, your emotions flow… We are talking about tens of thousands of paintings. It will take generations to record them… With each turn you take, there’s a new wall of paintings.
“We started to see animals that are now extinct. The photos are so natural and well done that we have little doubt that you are looking at a horse, for example. The Ice Age horse had a heavy, wild face. It’s so detailed, you can even see the horse’s hair. It’s fascinating.’
The documentary’s presenter, Ella Al-Shamahi, archaeologist and explorer, shared her excitement at seeing the footage brought back to life.
She told The Observer: ‘The new site is so new that they haven’t even given it a name yet. ”
Ella Al-Shamahi, archaeologist and explorer, shared her excitement to see the images resurrected
During their trek, the explorers encountered some of the region’s most dangerous predators.
At one point, the team even came face to face with the deadliest viper in the Americas – the bushbender.
The only option for the team was to walk past the snake, knowing that if they were attacked there was an infinitely small chance that they would make it to the hospital in time.
The territory where the paintings were discovered was only recently unsealed after being completely banned due to Colombia’s 50-year civil war.
And getting into the zone still requires careful negotiation.
Some of the paintings are extremely high on a relatively steep rock face, which initially baffled the research team.
However, Professor Iriarte believes the depictions of wooden towers among the paintings serve to explain how the indigenous peoples managed to reach such extreme heights.
It is not known if the paintings had a sacred purpose, but Iriarte noticed that many large animals are surrounded by humans with their arms raised – apparently in a pose of worship.
Presenter Al-Shamahi added that some people don’t realize that the Amazon wasn’t always a rainforest and actually looked much more like a savanna thousands of years ago.
She said it was fascinating to see these ancient representations of what the earth would have looked like so many years ago.
Iriarte is convinced that there are many more paintings to be found in the area and his team will visit again as soon as the coronavirus pandemic allows.
Jungle Mystery: Lost Kingdoms of the Amazon begins at 6:30 p.m. on Channel 4 on December 5. The discovery of rock art is in Episode 2, December 12.